Austin is a small, unincorporated community of about 200 people located on the western slopes of the Toiyabe Range, elevation 6,605 ft or 2,013 meters. U.S. Highway 50, also called the Loneliest Road in America, passes through the town. There is a small café in this town that makes a good stopping place for a hamburger and milkshake and is where I picked up this postcard about 20 years ago.
David Buell and his partner Alvah Austin mapped out the town in 1862 during a silver rush. The discovery of silver here is attributed to a Pony Express horse kicking over a rock that exposed the ore. A year after Buell and Austin (for whom the town is named) had mapped it out the population of the town and surrounding Reese River Mining District had jumped to 10,000. During the boom years Austin became the Lander County seat that was later moved to Battle Mountain in 1979.
It was hoped that the Nevada Central Railroad would connect Austin with the transcontinental railroad at Battle Mountain in 1880; however, by then the silver boom was almost over with major silver production ending in 1887. Although there was interest in uranium mining during the 1950s the ore proved to be of low quality. A small amount of gold and silver mining has continued off and on and small quantities of high quality turquoise are still mined in this area.
Because Austin has numerous historical buildings in various states of repair it has been dubbed a “living ghost town,” and is an example of an early Nevada mining town. Some of the nearby local attractions include a three-story structure called Stokes Castle built in 1897 by wealthy Anson Phelps Stokes who had interests in more than one of the local mines. The castle was only occupied for one month before being abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as is the Austin Cemetery, the old city hall, the Austin Masonic and Odd Fellows Hall, Gridley Store, and the former Lander County Courthouse together with a few others. Austin is the recognized headquarters for the Yomba Shoshone Tribe. Also near the town is a cluster of natural hot springs and the Hickson Petroglyph Recreation Area with an interpretive trail featuring ancient drawings carved into the rocks.
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